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7 things I wish I hadn't wasted my money on in my 20s

Spoiler alert: Lattes did not make the list.
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By Caroline Moss

Ah, my 20s. A great decade, a terrible decade. FYI: Your 20s aren’t as fun as they (you know, “they” — the movies, the magazines, the TV shows) make it out to be, and your 30s aren’t as scary. That’s my opinion, anyway, and you know what they say about opinions (they say that mine are always right).

Twenty-somethings, heed my warning: Unless you’re a wunderkind Zuckerberg or an heiress of some kind, it’s a fair bet that you’re not entering the real world with a ton of extra cash so do not frivolously spend what little cash you do have. You’re probably working really hard and not making nearly enough. You’re probably doing your boss’s job for them while they duck out every Friday at noon so they can spend all of their money on weekends away with their pals. I get it. We’ve all been 23. It sucks. But your 20s are also — if you’re not careful — a time when you’re going to spend money on a lot of dumb junk. Looking back on all of that wasted money in about 10 years is going to suck much more than being 23 ever did. Guaranteed.

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Here are the seven things I wish I hadn’t wasted my money on when I hardly had any money to begin with (and none of them are lattes. I am very glad to have purchased many a coffee between ages 20 and 29):

  1. Cabs: I took a lot of cabs when I moved to NYC at 21 years old. Raining? Grab a cab. Windy? Cab time, baby! Sunny? It's too hot to walk so we gotta hail a cab. A few years ago, Lyft sent me, without my CONSENT, a ride history that totaled all of the money I had spent on rideshares that year. Lyft, did I say I wanted to know? It was a lot of money. In the thousands. I would love that money back. I wish I had walked more or packed more books in my bag for the times when public transportation was unreliable.

  2. Ugly, cheap clothing: My mom used to tell me that I should spend more money on fewer staple pieces that would never go out of style instead of buying a higher volume of fast fashion clothes at cheaper prices. But hey, who listens to their mom, anyway? Couldn’t be me, a person who would love to get a refund on all of the synthetic polyblend going-out tops I just had to have in 2010. Guess what, my mom was right! Buy some good jeans! Invest in a nice blazer! Buy a leather jacket instead of twelve different $34.99 pleather ones. Buy a nice bag and then take care of it! Listen to your parents when they tell you things!

  3. Tanning: This is more about the time period and less about being in my 20s, but tanning was huge in the mid-2000s so I spent hundreds of dollars to slather sickly-sweet smelling lotion all over my body and lie in a UV bed just so I could turn 30 and spend all of my time figuring out which skincare routine will erase the wrinkles on my face that I have from… tanning. If you’re in your 20s now, stop spending money to vape. Vaping in 2020 is what tanning was in 2006. Stop. Stop it now. You dummy.

  4. Crappy vacuums that won’t last more than a year: My parents save a lot of money and hardly ever shop. They are minimalists and believe if you invest money in something, that something should last you for a really long time. They also believe that if something isn’t broken, you don’t need a new one. And even if it is broken, if it still basically gets the job done, it’s fine. A vacuum is one of these things that my parents spent tons on in, like, 1992, and then never had to think about again. Spend some real cash money on a vacuum that will last you 40 years instead of a $75 vacuum that you have to replace with another $75 vacuum every two years. I use my late grandmother’s powder blue 1950s canister vacuum to this day!

  5. The cheapest “whatever” on the shelf: Are you sensing a theme here? I thought buying all the cheap stuff — cheap dresser, cheap dishwasher rack, cheap plates, cheap towels — was saving me money. Sure, on the day I purchased it, it did save me money. In the long run, it did not. And the long run is really all you should be considering when making a purchase for something you will always have a need for, like bedsheets and dinner plates.

  6. Diet pills and diet programs: I don’t care how old you are on this one. If you want to lose weight, fine. If you think this $40-per-month weight loss plan is going to be the thing that gets you to lose the 15 pounds so you can “finally be happy” then please, do not do it.

  7. Any haircut which involved getting bangs: I still can’t look at most pictures of myself from 2011.